Talk About Family in Japanese with 60+ Essential Vocabulary Words

Family in Japanese culture is strongly tied to identity and the family unit often functions as a whole.

Traditionally, parents and elders are respected and ancestors are honored. 

When you start a journey to learn a new language, family words are often among the first that you learn—and thses familial words are even more important when you’re learning Japanese!

Learn all about the Japanese family and the words you’ll need to know to refer to any of your relatives.


The Importance of Family in Japanese

Family holds significant importance in Japanese society and culture. The concept of family, known as 家族 (kazoku) in Japanese, is deeply rooted in traditional values.  Influenced by Confucian principles, Japanese family structures generally have a patriarchal head and a multi-generational household. 

The cultural significance of the family is evident in the 戸籍 (koseki), Japan’s official family registry, which treats the household as the fundamental societal unit. This registry mandates reporting details such as birthplace, date of birth, relocations, marriages, divorces, paternity acknowledgments, adoptions and deaths. Because of this, individuals are highly aware of their family history, hierarchy and genealogy.

There are a few underlying aspects of family in Japanese culture:

  • Filial piety: Japanese culture places a strong emphasis on respect and devotion to parents and elders. Filial piety, or 親孝行 (oyakoko), is a traditional virtue where children are expected to show deep respect and care for their parents.
  • Family as a social unit: The family is considered a fundamental social unit in Japan. It’s often seen as a cohesive and supportive group and individuals derive a sense of identity and belonging from their family ties.
  • Collectivism: Japan is known for its collectivist culture and this extends to family values. Cooperation and harmony within the family are highly valued and decisions often consider the impact on the family as a whole.
  • Ancestor worship: Ancestor veneration is a significant aspect of Japanese culture. Families pay homage to their ancestors through rituals and ceremonies, fostering a strong connection between past and present generations.
  • Family events and traditions: Various family-centric events and traditions play a vital role in Japanese culture. Celebrations like New Year’s Day, Obon (a festival to honor ancestors) and Shichi-Go-San (a celebration of children’s growth) emphasize family unity.
  • Roles and responsibilities: Traditional gender roles have influenced family dynamics, with defined roles for men and women. While these roles are evolving, there’s still a sense of shared responsibilities within the family structure.
  • Support system: Families in Japan often serve as a support system for individuals, offering emotional, financial and practical assistance. The elderly are typically cared for within the family, emphasizing intergenerational support.

You can pick up a lot more vocabulary and cultural nuance through authentic media, like the kind you’ll find on FluentU.

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Japanese Family Vocabulary Words 

“Family” and Other Basic Vocabulary

家族 KazokuFamily
祖父母 SofuboGrandparents
兄弟姉妹 Kyodai ShimaiSiblings
義理の親戚 Giri no ShinsekiIn-laws
親戚 ShinsekiRelatives
子供たち KodomotachiChildren
赤ちゃん Aka-chanBaby
幼児 YoujiToddler
乳児 NyujiInfant
子供 KodomoChild
十代 JuudaiTeenager
大人 OtonaAdult
年配の人 Nenpai no HitoOld person
婚約者 Kon'yakushaBetrothed
結婚している Kekkon shiteiruMarried

Immediate Family

母親 HahaoyaMother (formal)
お母さん OkaasanMother
父親 ChichioyaFather (formal)
お父さん OtousanFather
ImoutoYounger sister
AneOlder sister
OtoutoYounger brother
AniOlder brother
息子 MusukoSon

Extended Family

祖母 SoboGrandmother
祖父 SofuGrandfather
孫息子 Mago MusukoGrandson
孫娘 Mago MusumeGranddaughter
おば ObaAunt
おじ OjiUncle
従兄弟 ItokoCousin
曾祖母 Sousobo Great-grandmother
曾祖父 SousohuGreat-grandfather
曾孫息子 Himago MusukoGreat-grandson
曾孫娘 Himago MusumeGreat-granddaughter
曾おば HiobaGreat-aunt
曾おじ HiojiGreat-uncle
義兄弟 GikeiteiStepbrother
義姉妹 Gishimai Stepsister
義父 GifuStepfather
義母 GiboStepmother
義理の母 Giri no HahaMother-in-law
義理の父 Giri no ChichiFather-in-law
義理の妹 Giri no ImoutoSister-in-law
義理の兄 Giri no Ani Brother-in-law

Familial Terms of Endearment

You probably don’t call your mom “mother,” right? You might call her “mom” or “momma,” and younger kids might call her “mommy” or “mama.”

The same is true in Japanese—there are a few ways to refer to your family members when you’re talking to them that aren’t necessarily the “official” terms. 

The simplest way to refer to your relatives is by adding the honorifics “-san” or “-chan” to make the word more respectful or affectionate, respectively. For example:  

Here are some more affectionate terms of endearment for referring to and talking to family members in Japanese:

ママ MamaMama
パパ PapaPapa
むすこ MusukoSon
ばば BabaGrandma
愛しい人 Itoshii HitoBeloved person
スイートハート Suiito HaatoSweetheart
あなた AnataLiterally means "You" but is used affectionately to say "dear" or "darling"


Regardless of your relationship with your own family, learning family words in Japanese is an important step in your language learning journey. From mom and dad to great-grandmother, you now know how to address any of your relatives in Japanese!

And One More Thing...

If you love learning Japanese with authentic materials, then I should also tell you more about FluentU.

FluentU naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You'll learn real Japanese as it's spoken in real life.

FluentU has a broad range of contemporary videos as you'll see below:


FluentU makes these native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts. Tap on any word to look it up instantly.


All definitions have multiple examples, and they're written for Japanese learners like you. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.


And FluentU has a learn mode which turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples.


The best part? FluentU keeps track of your vocabulary, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You'll have a 100% personalized experience.

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